Apr 1, 1928
This book opens well with a bird's-eye view of the chaos in aesthetics. The principal conflict discerned is between those for whom the aesthetic emotion is " easily available " and those who regard it as one of the rarest phenomena. Although the author, optimistically expecting a negative answer, asks whether discord need " ultimately prevent understanding," her book leaves us at the end, as at the beginning, with an impression of the variety, often the strangeness, of views on art. In structure the book is a series of chapters, each dealing with a salient point in some writer's system. Mrs. Gilbert has the ability to state views sympathetically, and her criticism is for the most part sound. The book makes pleasant reading, though not uhnaturally its smallness is accompanied by a certain slightness. One might wish for more direct reference to aesthetic experience and less recourse to Bosanquetian metaphysics. The positions attacked by Mrs. Gilbert vary in plausibility or (should it be said ?) unplausibility. Among the more interesting hypotheses are those of Lalo, that the value of a work of art is determined by " the totality of its relations," and of Santayana, that beauty is composed of three constituents. From some points of view the chapter on Croce is the most interesting ; it deals with analysis and classification in art, while the chapter on Bergson's penal theory of comedy makes agreeable reading and contains the most reference to actual works of art. The two remaining chapters deal respectively with Bosanquet on the artist's medium and with the nature of ugliness.